US Cruise Lockdown-Jamaica Seeks to be Caribbean Home Port

Discussions already taking place with cruise lines

Jamaica has thrown its hat in the ring to become the next Caribbean cruise ship home port when cruise shipping begins in the region come June.

This was confirmed by Jamaica’s Director of Tourism Donovan White.

The move by Jamaica comes less than a week after The Bahamas was announced as the cruise home port for Crystal Cruises and Royal Caribbean and St Maarten for Celebrity Cruises.

On Tuesday last, it was disclosed that Vision of the Seas would begin cruises out of Bermuda while the British Virgin Islands announced that it would be opening a cruise port of call.

Jamaica is now trying to get into the action, which has come about as a result of the United States cruise shipping home ports still being put on hold, as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

This has resulted in cruise lines trying to find new alternatives to home-porting such as those in the Caribbean. Jamaica is now looking to be a cruise home port after it reopens its borders to international tourism on June 15. White pointed out that Jamaica’s tourism officials have set in motion plans for the island becoming a cruise home port.

CRUISE SHIP HOME-PORTING PART OF OVERALL TOURISM RECOVERY PLAN

This is part of a larger plan for Jamaica’s tourism recovery plan as the arrival of cruise ships would boost tourism numbers to the island considerably.

Speaking during a recent virtual travel trade briefing, Jamaica’s tourism director spelt out the process of how the cruise ships could home port in the island and how cruises from Jamaica would operate. He explained that cruise passengers would be taken from the airport to the cruise port to board the ship.

He further posited that the . White confirmed that discussions are already going on between the cruise lines and the Government with plans and policies already made to have cruise ship home-porting, if a deal is reached with the cruise lines.

MORE TO SAY IN THE COMING WEEKS

According to the tourism director, “We will have more to say in the coming weeks, but you can be assured that conversations are indeed happening and the necessary policy and strategic frameworks that are required to make this a reality are, in fact, in place and are being reshaped where necessary.” The fact that more than 36 per cent of all cruise movements are made in the Caribbean with most cruise passengers coming from the United States and Canada makes it a win-win situation for Jamaica.

America’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has held up cruise ship operations in US waters since March 2020, although it has laid out guidelines for cruises to resume with conditional sailing certificates. Cruise operators have been struggling to make it through what has become a year-long suspension.

Like the other islands, Jamaica has traditionally depended on the cruise industry to be a part of tourism income. The cruise lines and the Caribbean islands are therefore able to lend each other a hand in making their ports available for home-porting while the American home ports remain under lockdown.

CRUISES ARE NOW IN GREAT DEMAND

Cruises are in huge demand and people are ready to head back out and enjoy a vacation at sea, as Crystal announced record single-day bookings for when Crystal Serenity sails in The Bahamas from July. The cruise line reports that almost 4,000 travellers reserved staterooms or suites on at least one of the seven-night voyages out of Nassau or Bimini in The Bahamas.

Almost 200 guests have reportedly reserved back-to-back cruises with some planning to spend 42 days onboard. The numbers are impressive with a 2,024 per cent increase in online books. Celebrity Cruises CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo says returning to the Caribbean “marks the measured beginning of the end of what has been a uniquely challenging time for everyone.”

Prior the Crystal Serenity cruise, Royal Caribbean will set sail again on its ship, Adventure of the Seas for seven-night cruises starting in June onboard two of its vessels, Celebrity Millennium and Adventure of the Seas. The Celebrity Millennium will relaunch on June 5 from St Maarten.

One itinerary will stop in Aruba, Curacao and Barbados and another will stop in Tortola, St Lucia and Barbados. Among the precautions the cruise line is taking to reduce the chance of COVID-19 transmission is the fact that all its crews will be fully vaccinated, only adult travellers who have been vaccinated will be permitted on board and guests under 18 will have to have negative test results.

— DURRANT PATE